“I’ve missed you, Zeke. So much,” he whispered, realising for the first time that he was straddling Zeke’s lap. Not that it bothered him in the slightest.
They sat like that for forever, though in reality it was probably only a couple of minutes. Caelan sat back a little.
And slapped Zeke in the face.
“That’s for leaving,” he stated simply.
A small smile appeared on his lips. “I deserve it.”
Looking at his face, Caelan decided what it was about his voice that was different; he sounded older, as if he knew how the world worked now and he didn’t like it. It was knowledge that made his voice different. The planes of his face were achingly familiar, and yet excruciatingly alien at the same time.
Caelan almost reached out to touch his cheek, almost in to kiss those dry lips of his. He didn’t though, for fear of being rejected; over the time that Zeke had been gone, Caelan’s feelings of confusion had drifted away, his emotions towards Zeke becoming more and more clear as every day passed. He loved him. And not just in the ‘he’s my best friend’ sort of way; Caelan was in love with him. But he hadn’t told anyone.
But he didn’t know how Zeke felt. Yes, he had been the one to start the brief kiss the night before he left but anything could happen in the time he was absent—and it had been longer for him than it had for Caelan. Anything could happen in that time.
Caelan lifted Zeke’s slowly bleeding hand.
“What was this for?” he asked, cradling the hand in his own.
Zeke shrugged. “Just something I’ve been doing recently.”
Caelan looked at the other hand and, sure enough, there were lots of little dots where Zeke had stabbed himself.
“Why?” He heard the worry in his own voice. He shrugged again, avoiding his eyes. “Zeke...” But he didn’t know what he was going to say. “You need to come and tell your dad. He’s been worried sick,” he said eventually, beginning to stand.
“No!” was Zeke’s sharp and sudden reply. Caelan froze, in the middle of getting off his lap, his breathing changing subtly; Zeke’s hands were on his hips, his beautiful blue eyes looking up at him through those long lashes of his. His hair was longer than it used to be, falling into his eyes. “Don’t, please,” he whispered, begging.
“Okay,” Caelan said softly, giving in. Clearly he still couldn’t resist Zeke.
Zeke’s hands on his hips gently pulled him back down.
“I was going to come back on your birthday but I couldn’t take it any longer. I was ready to come home.”
“Robert said you joined the Covenant,” Caelan prompted quietly. Zeke wouldn’t talk about it, he knew, if he felt as if he was being made to.
He nodded slowly. “I needed a way to release all my anger. It seemed perfect at the time.”
“At the time?”
“I hate myself now, Caelan. All the things I’ve done... I can’t...” His eyes fluttered closed, cutting off the easiest way for Caelan to know how he was feeling.